It's not a doss! You can have a good transition
Preparation and hard work are essential to having a successful fourth year
Bill Cullen famously suggested it was a "doss''. But education re- searchers insist that students usually benefit from Transition Year (TY).
Whether they are grappling with an office photocopier or making YouTube videos of flies creeping up a wall, students taking fourth year have an opportunity for a different type of learning.
"It has the potential to give students good experiences that help them to grow up,'' says Dr Gerry Jeffers, lecturer in Education at NUI Maynooth. "The emphasis is on social and personal development.''
The recession has made it more difficult to provide TY programmes, and some schools have been forced to drop them completely.
But the ASTI's transition year co-ordinator Noel Buckley says there is now a greater demand for it from students.
"More parents now want their children to do Transition Year, because they know that if they leave education early they will find it hard to get jobs.
"So, they are delaying the departure for as long as possible. This is putting pressure on school resources.''
Just under half of all pupils at Irish second-level schools do transition year, and it is now available in 75pc of schools.
The TY programme has three main aims:
- Education for maturity with emphasis on personal development, including social awareness and social competence.
- The promotion of general, technical and academic skills, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary and self-directed learning.
- Education through experience of adult and working life.
A report by the ESRI showed that students who do the year tend to score higher points in the Leaving Cert.
Taking social background into account, the average CAO points advantage is 25. Among middle-class students, the dividend is higher.
"It may seem obvious, but those who do best out of it are those who are prepared to put the most in,'' says David Walsh, TY co-ordinator at Ratoath College in Co Meath. "You have to be open to new ways of learning.''
A common criticism of the year is that students can lose the thread of their academic learning after the Junior Cert.
But Dr Jeffers says students should be able to maintain a balance which enables continuity in certain academic subjects, but allows for a different type of learning and opportunities to acquire new skills.
"It is an opportunity for teachers to communicate their love of a subject without the shackles of exams," he said.
Dr Jeffers says students learn a lot from work experience, the week-long placements which occur during the year.
"For some students, spurts of growth in self-confidence can be tracked directly to a particular work experience placement."
Placements should be carefully planned and organised well in advance.
The student can write a letter directly to an employer. Experts say this should be done as professionally as possible.
Finding a suitable placement without contacts can be difficult. So parents and teachers should be prepared to step in if they know someone working in the area.
"Students can learn a lot from trying to find the placement themselves, but there should be practical back-up from the school," says Dr Jeffers.
Parents who believe that Transition Year is a waste of time -- an unnecessary break from 'real education' -- may be selling their children short.
Eimear Sinnott of Careers Portal, a government service advising pupils on jobs, says: "Transition Year provides students with an opportunity to learn all sorts of skills that are useful for their careers.
"Good academic qualifications may be important for the workplace, but other qualities such as communication skills, problem solving and team work, which can be developed in Transition Year, are just as vital."